Inspired by Eroica Britannia 2016 and as rashly promised in our Eroica blog last year, David and I completed our challenge in style cycling the 25 mile route on our 1930’s tandem!
Having written my blog last year, recklessly thinking it would be fun to take part, even joking about cycling two up on a tandem, David got straight on ebay and within 2 days had purchased our vintage tandem – a real shock and surprise to me!
For those who haven’t heard of Eroica Britannia before it is billed as ‘The World’s Most Handsome Bike Ride’ and it certainly lived up to the claim, with over 4,500 riders taking part on vintage bicycles, many dressed in authentic costumes.
Luckily for me this non competitive cycle ride is not a race – it is as much about the fashion, the stunning Peak District scenery and the ice cream pit stops along the way, as it is about the cycling. As you can see we entered into the spirit of the occasion and donned our best bib and tucker!
A firm Festival favourite is the best in show competitions, from stylish outfits to the most impressive moustache – everyone entered into the spirit of the event.
To qualify for entry into Eroica Britannia all bikes have to be authentic, manufactured before 1986 and have shift gears on the bicycle frame, not the handlebars. These older bikes tend to have heavy frames and less gears than today’s modern bicycles, so therefore the hills are a little more challenging – one determined chap even completed the 25 mile route on a Penny Farthing which must have been a real bone shaker!
Riding a tandem is a little challenging to start with because you both have to synchronize movements as any wobbles from your partner can throw you off balance. Also the rear rider (often called the stoker!) has no control over speed or direction, which I found disconcerting to start with. David found that going downhill too fast hurt his ears – due to the loud squealing from behind!
Having got over the initial difficulties with many trips over the hill to the pub in Brassington, we soon mastered the tandem technique.
As you will see there were 3 routes to choose from. We thought with the steep Peak District hills that the 25 mile route was enough of a trial for us on our first official tandem outing. A good choice as ride day turned out to be one of the hottest days of the year!
As we live so close to the Friden venue we decided to cycle to and from the Eroica event adding another 8 miles to our total ride. The most challenging section of the whole ride was getting there, dodging the hundreds of cyclists who had already set off along the High Peak Trail on the 55 mile event, going in the opposite direction to us! We also nearly lost our voices as everyone shouted greetings and good morning as they cycled past.
We set off at 9am with a group of other 25 milers, full of enthusiasm, with the sun shining and my red polka dot skirt flapping in the breeze. The great thing about a tandem is that just when one of you is beginning to give up the other one urges you on to keep going. With determination we managed to ride the whole way without having to dismount for the steep hills. One of the toughest sections was pedaling up the long hill out of Monyash, which was made slightly harder as the climb came immediately after the lunch stop and we hadn’t got back into our rhythm.
It was so much fun riding the tandem as people waved and cheered you on. It was a fabulous feeling to cycle through the finish line to cheers and whistles from the gathered crowd.
The atmosphere was amazing with lots of Festival fun, from the fun fair for the children, to evening entertainment from ABC, and a fly past by a Hurricane Spitfire.
Would we do it again? YES – definitely a fantastic experience to complete the challenge.
However after our exhausting ride David was eagerly eyeing up an electric bike from Juicy Bikes – you would certainly breeze up the Peak District hills on one of their battery assisted bicycles.
Everyone was so friendly and the festival atmosphere was fabulous with everyone comparing bikes and chatting about their experiences late into the evening. Of course the weather helped – not sure it would be quite so much fun in the rain!
We were delighted to host two sets of guests for the weekend who were also taking part, which created a real Eroica spirit at Hoe Grange.
They were all more ambitious (and not riding tandems) so chose the longer 55 mile Eroica ride – a real challenge in the blistering heat.
If you fancy taking part next year why not book yourself a cabin here at Hoe Grange as a very handy base? I would suggest Daisybank or Pinder log cabins, as they both have hot tubs on the decking for soaking those aching limbs afterwards!